Tuesday, July 12, 2011
JE Trapnell RIP
John Eliot Trapnell, consultant surgeon, has died aged 81. John was my mentor in surgery. I first met him as a medical student when he was a registrar in Bristol. He was born a Bristolean and was educated at Clifton College, the famous Public School where the highest score in cricket was made in Victorian times (Arthur Collins scored 628 not out over four afternoons in June 1899 when he was 13 years old).
John graduated BA from Trinity College Cambridge in 1951 and MB.BChir in 1954, having done his clinical training at the Middlesex Hospital. He achieved a Cambridge MD in 1966. House jobs at the Middlesex and Central Middlesex were followed by junior doctor training at Leicester and then service with the Church Missionary Society in Maseno in Kenya
Between 1960 and 1968 he was a Registrar and Senior Registrar on the Bristol rotation, which for him included a year in Philadelphia on a Fulbright Scholarship.
When I met John, he had a formidable reputation as a surgeon of the old school. He knew his own mind and was quite sure that he as a surgeon knew better what needed to be done than any mere physician. I remember as a house surgeon being asked to remove dead muscle from the leg of a man with end-stage cirrhosis. John was of the opinion that the leg needed to be amputated. He watched over me while I nibbled away at the ischemic leg. When I had finished he said, "Now they will believe me when I say it needs to be amputated."
John became consultant surgeon in Bournemouth in 1968 and had been here for 4 years before I came down as a Senior Registrar in Hematology. He always watched over me and was kind to me as my career progressed.
Shortly after I was converted he came and preached at my house at a meeting we held for those aged 20-40. I remember he preached on Exodus 15:22-27: the waters of Marah and Elim. For a long while he was an Anglican Lay Reader, but under the ministry of Harry Kilbride he was baptized as an adult believer, which upset some people. He later preached regularly at Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Evangelical churches throughout Hampshire and Dorset and beyond.
As Senior Surgeon in Bournemouth he was hugely influential, affecting many changes while he was Chairman of the Medical Staff. He was greatly beloved of his patients though his colleagues sometimes required more patience with him. He could be forthright. His patients remember the kind way he always phoned up the spouse of the person he had just operated on to tell him or her that all was well.
He became a world authority on pancreatitis and cancer of the pancreas, publishing over 70 scientific and medical papers and 10 text-book chapters. He received many honors including the EK Frey Prize Medal of the German and Austrian Intensive Care Society. He held a Hunterian Professorship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1969. He traveled widely as a visiting Professor in America, Europe and Asia and lecturer and examiner worldwide. He worked tirelessly to help foreign medical graduates in Africa and from behind the iron curtain obtain first class higher surgical training.
He retired at the age of 60 and had 21 years of retirement at his beautiful house on the edge of the New Forest. He died peacefully in his sleep in Cambridge following a reunion at Trinity College. He is survived by his wife Sandy and his four daughters from an earlier marriage.